Our journey in the Autism Spectrum

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A Long Way to Cologne…

…where ridiculous resides and because I always seem to take the long way around a story:

My little dude is funny. Except, after BDC taking him shopping for new sneakers tonight, and finding that his feet are quickly reaching my size (he’s only 8!), he’s not truly” little”. Though I will probably refer to him as my “little dude” for the rest of his life. (So, Henry, you have been warned.) But I digress.

Later in the evening I walked upstairs to corral the little (see, I can’t help myself) chameleons to bed while BDC worked on getting pictures off of my phone and into my computer. Because sometimes I’m technically challenged.  Anyway, it’s a cool evening so the windows are open and our attic fan is running. When I got to our bedroom (because the kids have claimed it as their own and are watching TV in there)  I smelled something strangely odorous.  Like perhaps there was a dead animal nearby in our neighborhood, or more accurately, right outside our bedroom window.

The following conversation ensued.

ME: *scrunching my nose*  “What smells in here?”

Of course, I try to identify it and find the source.  I go over to our window to see if it’s stronger there. You know, sort of like, “Oh this milk is sour! Taste it!” Only in this case I was inflicting this upon my own olfactory senses.  Again, I digress.

As I am unable to discern where said smell is coming from, I turn back to the kids.

HENRY: “Heh, heh!”  *said devilishly*  “That must be me you smell.”

ME: “YOU smell?”   *then I realize I can’t remember the last time Henry had a bath*

HENRY: “Yeah, come smell me.”

* again with the sour milk…?  I move hesitantly toward him.*

HENRY: “Dad and I were trying some man cologne while we were at Kohl’s.”

ME: “Oh!”  *laughing*  “Did you really?”

HENRY: “Only two kinds. Smell.”  *he pulls his t-shirt away from his neck so I can get a good sniff*

ME:  “Hey, that smells pretty good!”  *said with a bit of surprise*  “That’s not what I was smelling a second ago.”

HENRY: “Ohhhh, yeahhhh!”  *nodding his head, giving me the smooth-move-finger-gun motion and an attempt at a wink*  “Dad should get two bottles of each and I should get two bottles of each for four bottles and I should wear this twice a day.”

Well, on the upside, I wouldn’t smell that dead animal smell with Henry bathing in two different types of cologne twice a day.  Although, we  probably would all end up not being able to smell anything after that, rendering any kind of scent a moot point.  (I did mention the long way around, right? Keep reading. It’s almost the end. Really.)

By this time I’m getting the kids tucked in their beds and of course, Lucy has chimed in on the conversation.

LUCY: ” Henry, you can’t wear that!”

HENRY: “I might wear it THREE times a day!  Maybe even FOUR! Ok, maybe just two. I can SO wear it, Lucy.”

LUCY: *laughing*  “Ewwww! No you can’t Henry!  You can’t even date yet.”

HENRY: *matter-of-factly*  “Well, that is true.”

ME: “You don’t have to date to wear good smells. Remember, Henry, you used to wear Mad Hatter? And you really liked that.”

HENRY: “Well, yeah.  I should probably wear man cologne more often. You know, because a man likes to smell good.”

*shaking my head. Good gods, how did I land on this planet and with these kids?!? *

So, there you have it. Because honestly I don’t know how to end this ridiculous story about an equally ridiculous conversation. But it made me so happy to see my kids laughing and being utterly serious and silly at the same time.  For me, that’s reason enough to take the long way to cologne.

A Few Wise Words About Bad Words

For whatever reason, though it’s something anxiety related I’m guessing (which deserves a much longer post), as soon as Henry puts on his jacket to wait (inside) for the morning bus he stops talking.  Every morning he asks earlier and earlier if he can put on his jacket.  This morning this is how this conversation played out.

HENRY: Can I put on my jacket now?

ME: *glancing at the clock* You’ve still got 15 minutes until the bus comes.  If you can continue talking with us when appropriate then you can put on your jacket.

HENRY: But I can’t.  It’s a ….thing.

*his new catch-all phrase for whatever he decides he is compelled to do.*

ME: No. It’s not ‘a thing’. You have words. Use them.

LUCY: But not the bad ones, Henry.

…and there you go.

They Accepted

This last part of the school year has been a bit challenging for our little dude. We are getting some notes coming home in his daily binder; “rough day”, “agitated”, “did not want to work with classmates in group”, “impatient”, “not waiting his turn”, etc. It’s the end of the school year and Henry is having a hard time holding it together some days. This is not surprising to me for a kid with an autism diagnosis. We work daily in the area of his social/emotional challenges. Always. Still.

Last week I had gotten a note and a call from the principal’s office that Henry was bothering some girls on the playground and he reached out and grabbed one of them by the shirt. This week a note came home, “arguing today”. Henry doesn’t like to get into trouble. And he really doesn’t like to talk about it when he does get into it. You can almost see how physically painful it is for him to admit he is wrong or to apologize for something. We have been working VERY hard on how to handle this in an acceptable manner. He wants to play with the other kids sometimes but he just doesn’t know how. Nor does he get those social cues when the kids don’t want to play with him or play his way. Another not-so-surprising aspect of his autism diagnosis. This is his most challenging area for sure! I was wondering if this most recent note had something to do with the playground issue from last week. I worry a great deal about what these social challenges might mean for Henry as he grows up. For how long will these challenges be oh-so-challenging for him? Will he ever learn how to navigate these waters appropriately? Will the kids ever understand and accept him for who he is?

When I questioned Henry about who he was arguing with I got the typical first response I usually get from him, “I don’t want to talk about it!” He had just come home from school which is a rough time of day anyway. Fine. Let him decompress.

In continuing with our vigilance in using everything as a possible teachable moment, later that night before bed when all was quieting down, I asked him again who he was arguing with. “Mrs. Q.” (This is his SSD resource teacher that he adores so I was beginning to worry what this was all about.)

“Why were you arguing with Mrs. Q?”

“I don’t know, Mom. Sometimes it seems like I just can’t help it.”

Fair enough. Not that this is acceptable, mind you, but at least he was thinking about it and talking about it calmly with me.

“Well,” I said, “don’t you think you should apologize to Mrs. Q for your behavior?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, good. So when do you see her next?”

“I see her every day, Mom.” he told me in his “duh!” tone.

“Okay, so the next time you are with her you should apologize and try to work harder at not arguing with her. Alright?”

“Yeah, okay.”

I didn’t say anymore about it after that until he got home from school the next day. “Hey, dude, did you talk with Mrs. Q?”

“Yes, and I said I was sorry and I will try to be better.” (I don’t know if he actually did apologize to her but for now I am giving him the benefit of the doubt.) I figured this was the end of it at this point and we let it go.

However, this morning while the little ones were eating breakfast and I was getting clothes ready for the day, Henry came to me and said, “Mom, you know how I told you I apologized to Mrs. Q?”

Uh oh…”Yes, I remember.”

“Weeeellllllllll, I also apologized to the girls I was bothering the other day.” And with a big grin on his face he said, “And they accepted!”

ummmm….wow! Now, I don’t know if there was any adult intervention or whether he did this on his own but still, big. huge. wow.

“Oh, dude! That is really great! I am so proud of you! Great job!” But, again, as we continually try to practice and remind and practice more, I couldn’t help adding, “So now that you said you were sorry for that, you will try hard and not bother them anymore, right?” While he is getting better at saying he is sorry, he still has a hard time stopping some of the behaviors.

“Right. But can I play with them?”

“Of course! But you need to asked them if you can play with them first. And if they say no, then you need to leave them alone, okay?”

“Yeah. But then can I still wave to them and say hi?”

Oh my sweet little dude! “Yes! That would be very nice of you!”

I realize that Henry’s classmates will never really understand how hard all of this social interaction is for him. But today, I feel we are one more step closer to acceptance!

I Saw the Light

I woke up this morning at 4 o’clock and couldn’t get back to sleep. Hubby was up at 4:30 (not all that unusual for him though). We were enjoying a quiet morning (as much as one can “enjoy” anything at 4AM) drinking our tea and watching the news. Next thing we know the boy is up and crawling into our bed.

BDC: Hey, Henry, what are you doing up so early?

Henry: I saw the light.

Me: It’s not light outside.

We encourage him to not get out of bed until the light shines through his curtains.

Henry: I saw the light inside.

BDC: Your door was shut Henry and only the kitchen light is on. (A small one over our sink)

Henry: *in his “duh!” voice* Uh, the light under the door.

Oy vey!  Now Lucy is up too!  Of note: the teen who is SUPPOSED to be up now, is still sleeping with her alarm going off. Looks like this is how we’re rolling today… :-/

The Other?

My darling little chameleons were supposed to be getting dressed for school this morning.  There was much commotion and very little getting dressed. As I entered the room, without a word from me, Henry immediately jumped to his new standard response, “Lucy started it.”

“I don’t want to hear about who started it. You both need to quit messing around and get ready for school!”

“But Mom! Lucy did start it!”

“No I didn’t!” Lucy just couldn’t not defend herself. (I know, double negative. You know what I mean)

Then my mother’s own voice somehow came  from me, “I don’t care who started it!  The other needs to finish it!”

But my mother didn’t have a kid like Henry. “But Mom, we don’t know who ‘a other’ is!”

Yeah, sometimes it’s better to just walk away.

What Is Normal?

We’ve had our share of germs going around this winter break and our little dude on the spectrum did not get left out. Monday morning Henry woke up as usual, had breakfast and his meds and then promptly threw up. For the next hour or so, through tears and whining and crying, he perseverated on vomit. He’s had a fever since then but actually has done quite well once we convinced him on day #2 that he didn’t need to keep “the bucket” right next to him because we were sure he wasn’t going to throw up again.

For the last 3 days, my little dude spent his days zoned out underneath his blanket in my bed. I wasn’t feeling well myself and it was a wonderful reason to join him there. We talked, we rested (I actually napped!),  we watched TV, I read, he played video games. Interestingly, during this time we did not give him his ADHD meds. That’s how I knew he really didn’t feel well. No meds and I’ve never seen him be so still and quiet for so long! He never complained of anything except a headache and just not feeling well. His fever was running between 100 and 103. He wasn’t eating as much but more than I would expect and he was great about drinking water. Despite both of us being sick, I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve enjoyed spending some “normal” quiet time with my son.

Henry, being the kind of kid that he is, once he got over the whole “throw-up” perseveration he moved on…  such that I’ve taken his temperature about a zillion times now.  “Take my temperature mom. Am I normal?”

Normal. hmmm.

Today is day #4 with fever (and throwing up his breakfast again) so I kept him home from school and got him into see our pediatrician. We spent quite a bit of time trying to reassure Henry that he was not going to get a shot. As Dr. K was checking out his ears (and finding an ear infection!), Henry asked him, “Am I normal?”

Our doctor chuckled as he answered, “Well Henry, I’m not sure I know what normal is.” (and this is just one small reason we love our pediatrician!)

Henry, very matter-of-factly said, “You know what normal is.”

Dr. K replied, “I’m just a doctor, Henry. What is normal?”

In his incredulous tone Henry said, “You know! Normal is when you’re not sick and you are just your regular self.”

Yeah, THAT’S the definition of “normal” I’m using from now on. And I’m relieved that Henry sees himself as normal. Because he IS. It’s okay to be different and still be “normal”.

As an aside, we were quite surprised about an ear infection as Henry never once complained of ear pain or hurting on that side of his head. I’m glad I took him in. Now Henry can work on just getting back to his normal which is my favorite kind!  Just being your regular self.

Zombies vs. Princesses

[Ed. Note: I feel I need to preface this post to say that we do, in fact, love our school, our teachers, and our new principal. They have been nothing but understanding and supportive of all of our kids! But occasionally, it does seem we catch them momentarily off-guard.]

Friday I got a call from our school’s principal. Our  Kindergartener had been sent to the office for the third time last week. During the course of our conversation about my daughter’s infractions, our concerns that the behavior problems seem to be escalating, and how we might handle this situation, the principal, Dr. P, wanted to share with me exactly how Lucy was spending the time in her office.

Dr. P: Lucy has to sit in my office while she completes her work. She did a good job focusing on her task and following directions so when she was done I let her take a break and color some pictures. First, she drew some pictures of zombies.

ME: (with a little laugh) Yeah, that sounds about right.

Dr. P: Well, I asked her if she saw zombies on TV and she told me no.

I could hear Dr. P give a tiny sigh of relief. Thank the gods Lucy answered “no” because Dr. P had sounded a bit taken back by these pictures.

Dr. P:  (in a brighter, more reassuring voice) …and then she started drawing more normal things like a princess in a tower. You know, more typical things for 5 year-old girls.

ME: Well, actually Dr. P, zombies are kind of normal for us.

Perhaps I should have kept that little skeleton  in our family closet? (no pun intended.) Hey, at least I made no mention of the pirates, monsters, genetically mutated animals, and robots that routinely show up around the house!

Dr. P:  Oh…I see. Well, then..

I spent the next few minutes doing my best to sound like a “normal” parent who is relatively sane and very concerned about my daughter’s behavior. I was hoping to convince her  so we would not get a call from DFS (Division of Family Services) over the weekend. But truth be told, I’d pick zombies over princesses any day. Well, unless is was a zombie princess. Or a really cool warrior princess that could defeat zombies…

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